May 9

The 1978 Porsche 911SC Targa is a Classic Car – it’s official!


So, I found this great article in the March 1978 Issue of Car and Driver:

At this writing, Porsche has sold approx­imately 190,000 cars in the United States, and roughly 40,000 of these were 911s of one sort or another. Since our test car, the 1978 911 SC, may well be the last new model in the 911 series—the last rear-engined Porsche, for that matter—we begin our examination of the car by asking a question. Have you ever driven a Porsche?

Over the years we have tended to discuss the Porsche driving experience in familiar terms, casually tossing off our comments as though every enthusiast in North Amer­ica had access to the Porsche PR depart­ment’s motor pool. In that sense, we may have done both you and Porsche a disserv­ice, because driving a Porsche is quite un­like driving anything else in the world. It’s that simple. For almost 30 years Porsche has been building rear-engined sports and GT cars that were utterly unique in their own time. They have looked and felt differ­ent than other cars, but more important, they have been distinctly and memorably different in the way they went down the road.

The new 911 SC is faithful to that tradi­tion. It is the fastest normally-aspirated Porsche, 0–60, that we have ever driven. It does the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds at 94 miles per hour, and the factory (which is usually conservative in these things) rates its top speed at 136. While all this sturm and drang is slowly being fed through your mental computer, you must also come to grips with the information that it gets fif­teen mpg in the EPA city cycle and 27 in the highway test. It is thus terribly fast and surprisingly economical. A remarkable blending of opposing virtues. And it’s cer­tainly a combination that deserves grateful recognition these days.

Porsches have never been easy cars to drive well. They are often driven smoothly and slowly, sometimes roughly and fast, but the number of drivers who are both smooth and fast in Porsches is relatively small. The United States, with its kiddy-kar speed limit, sort of forces a lot of American Porsche drivers into the former mode. They sail along, a few miles per hour above the speed limit, never using more than 60 percent of the available cor­nering power, and the car seems as smooth and manageable as a Mercedes or a Firebird. However, that Dick Daring who is determined to try his Porsche at the limit quickly finds that he’s driving a very challenging machine. With less than 1100 pounds riding on the front wheels and about 1600 on the rear, the car has re­quired increasing amounts of both science and magic to make it corner like other cars, to keep it from punching holes in the hedges (backwards) and to make it go straight. Their 30 years of experience with the rear-engine layout have made the peo­ple at Porsche very good at wringing all the very best out of this automotive config­uration. But beneath all those years of sci­entific development work and sophisticat­ed fixes, the fast driver can still sense an angry, ill-behaved, oversteering Porsche trying to get loose. That the beast locked inside the 911 hardly ever breaks its bonds is a tribute to Porsche engineering, but there is no doubt that the beast is there. Accelerating hard at 90 in third, in a long sweeping uphill curve, I could feel the car fighting with itself. It went around that corner, and dozens of others, but whenever I pressed it hard, the Porsche would sort of warn me, prick my consciousness with lit­tle twitches and flexings that combined to ask me if I was really good enough to be doing what I was doing.The car’s appearance doesn’t give much clue to all this. The most important hint is the presence of wider tires at the rear, rac­er-style, with wider flared fenders to match. The 911 SC badge tells the knowl­edgeable that the engine’s displacement has been increased from 2.7 to three liters, that there’s a new oil-cooler hidden in the front fender, but otherwise this could be any Porsche 911. No humungus whale-tail, no over-stated vividly-contrasting decal package, just a feeling of purposeful dedication about the way it sits, ready to spring.

Archived Instrumented TestThe mere act of clambering into a Porsche serves as a warning that it’s going to be different. The seating is well forward, so that the pedals are up in that area where the floor pan starts to squeeze down be­tween the front wheels. Thus, they’re off-center, relative to the driver. The clutch is about where you’d expect the brake pedal to be and your first tentative stab at the throttle is apt to produce Stop instead of Go. As a first-time Porsche driver, you will get the pedals wrong a lot before it all begins to feel natural. Likewise the shift lever. Porsche has traditionally offered sensational transmissions with unbeatable synchromesh, but for 30 years these have been coupled to the shift lever via linkage as vague and uncertain as you’ll find on any modern car. In fact, there’s a certain school of thought that claims Porsche’s Volkswagen heritage stubbornly lives on in the gear linkage. The seasoned Porsche driver has grown accustomed to this and knows that he can throw the lever any­where he wants it with absolute assurance that the appropriate gear will be right there, but the beginner can be forgiven for doubting that there’s any shift pattern at all. On this car the two-three upshift was a tender one, even for the initiated, and we tended to take it slowly lest we miss it alto­gether, but the other four gears quickly lo­cated themselves for us.

The car is remarkably quiet at cruising speed. Ironically, as Porsche’s horsepower ratings have crept ever upward from hum­ble beginnings, the cars have become quiet­er. Porsche credits a new cooling fan and muffler for the present happy state of af­fairs, and in truth the old Porsche thrashing noise is nothing more than a distant mechanical presence. The SC engine offers 172 hp at 5500 rpm and 189 foot-pounds of torque at 4200. This feels like a lot, and in these days of microscopic jets and maiden’s-nostril venturis it is. The car goes!Full throttle acceleration from a halt demands that you keep your right hand on the shift knob, because you’ll run through the first two gears before you know it. Third gear, on the other hand, is a long one. The sen­sation of massive thrust is almost as great as in first and second, yet third feels far more flexible and all-round useful. Some­times, in heavy traffic moving between 40 and 55, the choice of third or fourth was a toss-up and I’d opt for third, simply be­cause it had so much extra punch. This kind of driving does not win economy runs, but it sure is fun.

The interior appointments of the SC are very German, that is to say more function­al than decorative and generally built to a very high standard of quality. One staff member objected to the fact that the steer­ing wheel has gone Detroit, with stamped-in stitching and texture, but it works well—being circular and all—and no one else was moved to comment. One thing that didn’t work too well was the heater. Air-cooled, rear-engine cars have always been at a disadvantage to their water-cooled brethren in this respect, and there’s no way to solve the problem completely without resorting to a gasoline heater, or solar panels or something equally exotic. On the SC, the system can be traced right back to early Beetle technology and it’s just as annoying on a $17,000 car as one we used to buy for $1700.

There is a hard-to-define “rightness” about this car, inside and out. It’s tight, solid and apparently very well put togeth­er. It fairly shouts quality. Driving it is an exercise in euphoria, a chance to sample something as different from conventional cars as turbo-props were from piston-driv­en aircraft. If you’ve never owned a Porsche, or driven one, you owe yourself the experience . . . especially since there can’t be too many more years of life in the 911 series. I wouldn’t want to grow old without counting a Porsche among my memories, and neither should you.At high speeds, the amount of cold outside air coming through the system increases and you must keep pulling the thermostat control higher to compensate. Then, when you come to a town and drop down to city speeds, the interior becomes a furnace. All this is com­plicated by the heater controls themselves, which require a stationary engineer’s li­cense to decipher.

Source –


1978, 911, 911sc, porsche, targa

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